I’m a genius. BC is good, like I said, and Minnesota is the worst team in the Big Ten, like I said. And if Oregon gives Jonathan Stewart the ball 30 times, he’ll gain 250 yards for them. Like I said like five different times, most recently last week. The Stewart thing I’m especially proud of. It’s obvious he’s an excellent running back but it wasn’t until backup Jeremiah Johnson got hurt that Mike Bellotti, genius that he is, realized what he has on his hands. We’ll see what Stewart and company can do against the Trojans this week. Anyway, I just wanted to take a minute to extol my prowess before taking the collar this week with my picks. I feel like I have at least one oh-fer in me this season.
We’ll be updating all day with scores and comments, as usual. And as always, these picks are for novelty uses only. Any money you lose is your own damn fault.
(7) West Virginia (6-1) at Rutgers (5-2) (+6)
A rematch of the triple overtime game from last season. Both teams are a little down this year, though West Virginia is better off than Rutgers. Rutgers’ offense is just as good as it was last season, but they’re not playing mistake-free football all the time this year. Ray Rice is good, but even he can’t overcome turnovers, especially since Mike Teel isn’t as good a passer as the team needs him to be. I just can’t believe a team this good is a six-point dog at home, even if they are down from last year.
Pick: West Virginia
Update: West Virginia 31 Rutgers 3. The turnover bug got Rutgers again. Two lost fumbles and two interceptions made it impossible for them to control the ball and, therefore, Pat White and Steve Slaton. Mike Teel remains the problem on offense for the Scarlet Knights. He just can’t be efficient enough for them to take the next step offensively. On the bright side, I’m guaranteed at least one win against the spread this week.
Homer Game of the Week:
Indiana (5-3) at Wisconsin (6-2) (-8.5)
Once again, the Hoosiers are one win away from bowl-eligibility. Last week’s loss to Penn State was crippling to the overall morale of the fan base and the team. Once again, the Hoosiers’ inability to tackle securely and stop the run was exposed against Penn State. Now they’re playing one of THE running teams in the conference and the same problems confront them. A high-scoring game benefits the Hoosiers, but they’ll have to get by the Badgers’ defense, which alternates between stout and sieve-like. The Hoosiers are going to need some kind of running game if they’re going to pull anything off in this game. I’m not saying they’ll have to run like Wisconsin or Ohio State, but Marcus Thigpen out of the shotgun is not getting the job done.
Update: Wisconsin 33 Indiana 3. Another game, another missed opportunity. Mistakes and sloppy play did the Hoosiers in once again in a game they could have won. Wisconsin lost PJ Hill in the first half, effectively ending the Badgers’ rushing-centric offense. The game turned when Indiana back Marcus Thigpen broke a long touchdown run that was called back on a ticky-tack holding call on wide receiver James Hardy. The officials completely swung the momentum back in Wisconsin’s favor and that was it for Indiana. Next week: Ball State. If IU doesn’t win that game, they don’t deserve to go to a bowl.
In other action, Kentucky lost to Mississippi State 31-14. So much for Andre’ Woodson’s Heisman campaign. As Indiana fans, we like to quote Nelson Muntz in these situations: HA-HA. Good for Sy Croom and Mississippi State, though.
(12) USC (6-1) at (5) Oregon (6-1) (-3)
During Pete Carroll’s tenure as USC’s coach, the Trojans have always gotten up for big games and this is easily the biggest game of their season. They’re still in the conference title hunt and crazily enough, even the national championship hunt. That is, as long as teams ahead of them keep losing. Oregon has really struggled recently against USC. The Ducks’ spread attack has failed to generate as many yards and points as they have scored on other teams. The Trojans’ defensive speed really gives them problems. This year, Oregon has been running their trendy spread offense better than ever before but the fact remains that they have to beat a team as fast and aggressive as they are. There is absolutely no reason to think things have changed in this matchup, whoever USC may have lost to. I swear Phillips had nothing to do with this pick. I just have no reason to trust Oregon in this game.
Update: Oregon 24 USC 17. Looks like the turnover disease that Rutgers has got to USC too. The Trojans fumbled and intercepted their way to a road loss that easily could have been a runaway win for them. Yes, they were banged up and their backup quarterback was making his third start ever and first on the road in the conference, but that’s no excuse. Sloppy play has doomed the Trojans this season and the offense seems lifeless. Conservative playcalling and bad mistakes by the quarterbacks have taken the juggernaut that was the USC offense and made it pedestrian. With all that talent, this is a major problem for USC going forward. Something needs fixing in the formerly unstoppable program.
Oh, and guess what? Twenty-five carries, 103 yards, and two touchdowns later, Jonathan Stewart is the best running back in the Pac-1o, maybe the country. Good to see Oregon came to their senses, even if it was against their will.
(10) South Florida (6-1) at (23) Connecticut (6-1) (+4)
Amazingly, this is still a big game in the Big East. It’s not the match up of undefeated teams we were hoping for, but was anyone really hoping for UConn and USF to do anything? Our admiration for Matt Grothe knows no bounds, but the kid could use more than a little polish in the passing game. At least the Bulls play excellent defense. However limited USF’s identity may be, at least they have one. I couldn’t tell you exactly what it is that UConn does well enough to remain undefeated after playing a good team. They couldn’t even score consistently on Louisville’s defense and defenses don’t get any crappier than that. Will USF recover from the heartbreaking loss to Rutgers that ended their dream season? Well, the dream season isn’t actually over. They still only have one loss and are still in the top ten. There’s a long way to go and if anyone is going to get things done, it’ll be Jim Leavitt and his staff of hilariously intense coaches.
Pick: South Florida
Update: UConn 22 USF 15. Guess the Bulls haven’t fully recovered from the Rutgers loss. USF out-gained the Huskies, but Matt Grothe threw two picks. He rushed for 146 yards but was very inefficient when he had to throw once again. Once again, UConn did nothing special, but only turned the ball over once and managed to make plays when it mattered. That’s winning football, if not exciting football.
(11) Florida (5-2) at (18) Georgia (5-2) (+7.5)
Ah, the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. As if either team’s fan base needed an excuse to drink. Without sounding like Orson Swindle from Every Day Should Be Saturday, it’s hard to see any other outcome from this game than Florida kicking Georgia’s ass. I like Matt Stafford, but the Bulldogs under Mark Richt are boring and vanilla on offense. There’s absolutely nothing special about them. Do they run well? Do they pass well? It’s hard to say because I’m not sure Richt can decide. Remember, he was the offensive coordinator during Florida State’s halcyon days. Where’s Charlie Ward now, Mark? He’s at home, washing his tights!
Update: Georgia 42 Florida 30. Stafford looked good and the offense seemed to have life for once, but it was Knowshon Moreno that absolutely destroyed the Gators. Apparently, Florida’s defense is significantly worse than they seem. They did lose quite a few players, but they were totally unable to stop Georgia today despite a defensive touchdown on an ill-advised throw by Matt Stafford from Georgia’s own end zone. Our Lord and Savior Tim Tebow was hurt, so he couldn’t run like he usually does. No Tebow = a Floria offense that isn’t nearly the same as usual.
1-4 after the day games. Ouch.
(9) Kansas (7-0) at Texas A&M (6-3) (+3)
Kansas has got to lose sooner or later. They’re not actually a good team, they just haven’t played anyone yet. The problem is that my hopes of exposing the Jayhawks lie with Dennis Franchione and his merry band of whatever it is that Texas A&M thinks they have on that team. I can honestly say I have no idea what Coach Franch is doing with the way he’s running this team. They run the ball, but they don’t even do that very well. It’s nice to see the triple option make a comeback, but while Nebraska is The Sopranos of the option, Texas A&M is the Skin. Jorvorskie Lane is just a tubby dude who is hard to tackle and Stephen McGee is a quarterback that can’t or won’t throw. Either way, I just don’t trust A&M. That team is a shambles comparable to, ironically, Nebraska or any of the other messes around college football. I hate Kansas, but the Aggies make me crazy.
Update: Kansas 19 Texas A&M 11. I have to give some credit to Kansas, there was never a doubt that they’d win this game, even when it was scoreless in the third quarter. Their defense is good and their offense does enough to not totally screw them. The real story is just how bad Texas A&M is. I would say that this is the game that proves Franchione has to go, but I’m not totally confident that the Aggies could get a better coach into that program at this point. They’d have to hit a home run with the right coordinator or coach from a smaller program.
(16) South Carolina (6-2) at Tennessee (4-3) (-2.5)
This is a classic Spurrier game. South Carolina is just coming off of a bad loss to Vanderbilt which means the Old Ball Coach will have his boys fired up. And you can bank on the fact that Steve Spurrier always has something for Phil Fulmer. This should be a low-scoring game in the traditional SEC sense. Lots of field goals and weird scores like 16-15. Just like the A&M and Georgia games, this one comes down to coaching and one should always, ALWAYS take Spurrier over Fulmer. It’s not even a question. The real question is: what bad loss will finally get Phil Fulmer fired from Tennesse? Sure, he recruits well, but his teams are terrible anyway. Lots of coaches can recruit, but only some can actually do anything with that type of talent.
Pick: South Carolina
Update: Tennessee 27 South Carolina 24. I love how the ESPN recap of this game says that Phil Fulmer’s job is safe after this win, despite the Vols blowing a huge lead against a punchless team. Erik Ainge didn’t look particularly great and the Vols, once one of the best running teams in the country, rushed for a total of 101 yards. And they had a huge lead at one point. How were they not running the ball? Anyway, it turns out South Carolina is still a year away from being a really good Spurrier team, but they’re getting closer.
(1) Ohio State (8-0) at (25) Penn State (6-2) (+3.5)
A Big Ten game in a down year for the conference featuring two very overrated teams. Penn State was ready to give the game away last week to Indiana, but IU handed it to them instead. Or more accurately, Indiana put the ball on the ground like it was filled with bees. Bees that spit acid.
Ohio State is barely a top ten team, but they’re still undefeated and everyone else has lost except for BC. Now they’re going into Happy Valley at night against a defense that could make this a 3-0 game. Nice pick for the national ABC game. Everyone knows Ohio State plays a really exciting style of football. I hope the punters really stretched their legs for this one. I know Penn State is a tough place to play and Boeckman sucks, but Anthony Morelli is involved, and it’s impossible to trust him.
Pick: Ohio State
Update: Ohio State 37 Penn State 17. Quite the statement game from Ohio State. It was fairly obvious they were going to win, but this type of domination on the road is tough to do. I still don’t believe Todd Boeckman is a great quarterback, but at Ohio State, he doesn’t have to be. They’ll play Tressel-ball all the way to the title game if they keep this up. Beanie Wells is a hell of a running back. He’s no Jonathan Stewart, but still. In hindsight, I probably should have noted that Penn State almost lost to my beloved Hoosiers and therefore had very little chance against Ohio State, but I got the prediction right, so whatever.
(21) Cal (5-2) at (4) Arizona State (7-0) (-3)
Put it this way, Arizona State is the Kansas of the Pac-10. There is nothing impressive about them except that they’ve managed to not lose to any bad teams yet. Cal is still dangerous, even if Nate Longshore isn’t really any good. He’s not terrible, but he’s not going to be a major plus for the Bears either. That is, if he even plays. We all know what happens if Kevin Riley starts. The bands are going to be tired from playing the teams’ fight songs all night in this game.
Update: Arizona State 31 Cal 20. The Sun Devils lost Ryan Torain for the season, but still ran for 144 yards on Cal’s defense. The big story is that Cal simply couldn’t run on Arizona State effectively. As good as Cal’s offense is, they can’t be effective if Justin Forsett isn’t running well. Who knows, maybe Arizona State really is that good. We’ll see next week when they play Oregon, who won a big game of their own this week.
Record this week: 3-6
Last Week: 5-5